HK govt unable to curb soaring home prices: Carrie Lam

Asked about Hong Kong's red-hot property market, Ms Carrie Lam said "the government really has no ways to curb property prices".
Asked about Hong Kong's red-hot property market, Ms Carrie Lam said "the government really has no ways to curb property prices".PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HONG KONG • Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she would not blindly obey the orders of Communist Party leaders in Beijing, while admitting the government has no way to suppress skyrocketing prices in one of the most expensive property markets in the world.

Ms Lam was sworn in by Chinese President Xi Jinping in July as the former British colony celebrated 20 years of Chinese rule under the principle of "one country, two systems", which promises the city a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in the mainland.

While a recent poll shows the new Chief Executive is more popular than her predecessor, some accuse her of being a puppet of Beijing amid perceptions of Chinese meddling in Hong Kong's affairs. Specifically, they criticise her for pushing an arrangement that will allow Chinese officials to enforce Chinese laws in a high-speed railway station due to open next year.

Ms Lam, in an interview with the government-funded RTHK, said she was accountable to both the Hong Kong public and Beijing, but she would not blindly obey the central authorities.

Asked about Hong Kong's red-hot property market, where prices have shot up more than 12 per cent over the past year and are expected to climb another 10 per cent next year, Ms Lam said the government was helpless in reversing the trend.

"The government really has no ways to curb property prices... The government has introduced a few rounds of cooling measures, but they did not suppress prices, and quite the contrary now some people say these measures have pushed up prices."

The government's mixed bag of tax and regulatory policies, on top of eight rounds of mortgage tightening measures by the city's de facto central bank since 2009, has effectively locked up supply in the secondary housing market.

Ms Lam also said that while she has never promised to suppress property prices, she would seek more land to boost long-term housing supply.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2017, with the headline 'HK govt unable to curb soaring home prices: Carrie Lam'. Print Edition | Subscribe